Senate renovations to begin despite budget concerns

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JEFFERSON CITY - Programs assisting schools, the elderly and infants are just a few that said they can't provide full services after Governor Nixon froze some state funding.

Directors of some of those programs said they aren't happy that a nearly $700,000 renovation of a Missouri Senate chamber is about to get underway while funds have been cut from their programs.

First Chance for Children is a program helping low income families raise their children. First Chance for Children executive director Jack Jensen said Governor Nixon recently withheld $200,000 from their program.

Jensen said using the money on renovations instead of social service programs could have serious consequences.

"It basically cuts a little over sixty families that we were serving, but it also impacted our ability to run our safe cribs program. It is a program that is proven to help prevent child abuse and neglect,"Jensen said.

The safe cribs program provides inexpensive cribs for mothers who need them, while also providing instructions for taking care of your baby. Jensen said turning our back on infant care is not the way to save money.

"When we make sure a baby is well taken care of from the time they're born to age three when eighty percent of brain development occurs, we know that saves money down the road," Jensen said.

State Senator Mike Kehoe said he sympathizes with social service programs that need funding from the state. However, he said the renovations aren't the place to cut funding either.

Kehoe said parts of the capitol building are leaking and a long term solution is needed.

"I think the longer we defer taking care of some of the problems here, the larger the costs could be when we get around to them," Kehoe said.

The renovation removes mostly unused offices and creates an open floor above a senate chamber for the public to see the senate in action. 

"I think anytime you can let more school groups and more citizen's groups and anybody else view the senate and view their government in action, I think that's an important step," Kehoe said.

Kehoe said full funding for renovations and vital social service programs are available in the state budget and he believes Nixon will release the withheld funds soon.

"We're hopeful that he'll release some of that money in some of those other areas and fund some of those vital programs, along with the needed maintenance on this and many other state buildings that are falling in great disrepair," Kehoe said.

Nixon has released millions of dollars of frozen funds to Missouri programs already, but dozens of programs are still waiting to be fully funded.